Sunday, August 7, 2011

Let’s Start at the Beginning

About five or six years ago, I was working at the Rathbun Memorial Free Library in East Haddam, CT. Kelly Marszycki, the library’s director, asked me if I would be willing to write some short pamphlets on the history of the women of East Haddam. Of course, I jumped at the invitation. Being able to write about my two favorite subjects, women and history, gave me an adrenalin rush.

My experience included publishing and editing a women’s magazine for a decade. I also wrote articles for the “WOMAN” page of the Middletown Press. I especially enjoyed writing articles for Women’s History Month. This assignment was right up my alley. I am in awe of how much women accomplish. 

What Did I Get Myself Into?

In this case, as soon as I started the research, I knew it was going to be difficult but it hooked me. There are fascinating stories here in the midst of a tremendous amount of history in East Haddam (as in all the towns in this area). Much of the material written, especially during the 19th century, portrays the male point of view. When you go into primary sources, women are rarely mentioned and then it is usually, “John Smith’s wife Mary.” This is not a lot to go on to build a life’s story. When reading about the early settlers, you would think the men had come here and settled Connecticut alone. The object of the project was to show there were women, right alongside these men, helping tame a wilderness and grow a community
Project Promoted and Published

The Rathbun Library published the pamphlets one century at a time (17th, 18th and 19th) a few months apart. After each pamphlet published, I would give a talk at the library. The affirming response to my work with the pamphlets showed an interest from the community in their history.  The two comments that we heard repeated were, “I want to know more about more of these women,” and “Why don’t you write a book about these women?” 

At the time, I was a public relations consultant for Middlesex Community College and freelancing for a number of newspapers, in addition to working at the library. It just was not feasible to take on another project. I am a good time manager but there is a limit to how much one can do in 24 hours.

An Idea that Wouldn’t Go Away

Time passed as it does so quickly and every now and then, in between writing assignments, I would pull out the research and work on my outline. Life would get in the way and the box of research would go back to the closet again.

In the beginning of 2011, I made the difficult decision to put my mobile home on the market. I love my spot on the lake, but a writer can write anywhere I tell myself. In cleaning out closets, I once again pulled out the box of research. “Okay,” I said, “It is time to do it or throw it away.” I decided that 2011 would be the year for me to do this book.

Making it Happen

I divide my time between writing for and traveling around to the many libraries that have genealogical records for me to research. At each visit I dig for some bit of information on someone in one of the 18 families I am profiling.

Of course, I make sure there is time for writing short stories and memoirs in an effort to to keep the writing gears oiled while I research.

Stay tuned and travel with me back in time. It is going to be a fun journey.

No comments:

Post a Comment